Washington group claims Roaring Fork Valley has Colorado’s largest income gap | AspenTimes.com

Washington group claims Roaring Fork Valley has Colorado’s largest income gap

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool and America’s only mountaintop theme park, Glenwood Springs has earned plenty of accolades over the years.

According to visitglenwood.com, since 2011, the city and its attractions have garnered 66 merits from USA Today Travel calling it America’s most fun small town to Outside Magazine ranking it one of the 16 best places to live in America.

However, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, D.C., has painted the city at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers in a less flattering light.

According to the EPI, the “Glenwood Springs metro area” — defined as the region from Glenwood Springs to Aspen — ranks as the most unequal metro area in the state with respect to income inequality.

The interactive article published to the EPI’s website was adapted from “The New Gilded Age: Income Inequality in the U.S. by State, Metropolitan Area, and County” by Estelle Sommeiller and Mark Price, and reflects 2015 tax filings.

In the article, the EPI claims that the top 1% in the Glenwood Springs metro area rakes in 45 times more than that of the bottom 99%.

Additionally, the data states that the average income of the top 1% in the Glenwood Springs metro area was $2.96 million annually, whereas the average income of the bottom 99% was a little over $66,000.

Glenwood Springs’ city officials say to take the report with a grain of salt.

“EPI is always trying to point out the difference between the haves and the have-nots,” Steve Boyd, Glenwood Springs chief operating officer, said. “That’s their existence.”

Despite being over 40 miles apart, the EPI factored Aspen and all of Pitkin County into what it defines as the Glenwood Springs metro area.

“We are using official government definitions of what are metropolitan areas,” Price explained. “Pitkin County is one of the components of the Glenwood Springs, Colorado metropolitan area.”

According to the EPI, Pitkin County ranked as the seventh most unequal county in the country with respect to income inequality; Garfield County was ranked 156th nationally as it related to income inequality.

While Pitkin County’s top 1% pulled in an average of approximately $6.6 million annually, Garfield County’s 1% collected roughly $1.49 million.

Additionally, Pitkin County’s bottom 99% took in over $91,000 annually whereas Garfield County’s earned nearly $58,000.

“The question I would have for these guys is, what’s the median income?” Boyd said. “That would be a much better indicator of how things are going in Glenwood Springs because we have a handful of households that make a lot of money.”

Although a different data source, according to the United States Census Bureau, between 2014 and 2018, the median household income in Glenwood Springs was just over $63,000.

The state median household income during the same time frame was nearly $69,000 and the national was just over $60,000.

“It’s easy for people to look at (the EPI’s headline) and say, ‘The rich are dominating the poor in Glenwood.’” Boyd said. “And, that’s really not what’s happening in this community.”